BANGALORE: A 22-year-old pregnant woman committed suicide at her house in Jagjeevanram Nagar on Saturday. She reportedly killed herself after continuous harassment by her husband and his family for dowry.
According to NGOs working for women’s rights, every day one woman dies in Karnataka due to dowry harassment.
While there is more awareness now about dowry deaths and the laws to prevent it, sadly, little has changed in Karnataka in the last three years. A report recently released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that 267 people died due to dowry harassment in the state in 2011, 218 in 2012 and 277 in 2013. The situation is the same in Bangalore city, with no decline in reported cases.
Vimochana, a women’s rights organisation campaigning against dowry for more than 10 years, says there is a pattern in the deaths. Explains Donna Fernandez, chairperson of Vimochana: “The registered number of dowry deaths are not indicative of the real scenario. Many women who have been murdered, the reason has been dowry. We need to consider this number too.”
She said some specific categories of deaths such as suicides, murders, accidents due to stove burst etc, are also directly connected to dowry. The number of deaths has been increasing for the last 10 years, but the government has been reluctant to do anything about it, she said.
On April 7, 1999, a joint House committee, chaired by BJP MLA Pramila Nesargi, was constituted to investigate atrocities against women and dowry deaths, and make recommendations for their prevention. A report was submitted, but no steps have been taken till now, Fernandez rued.
Speaking to Express, Alok Kumar, Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), said since dowry death is a social crime, there is very little the police can do. “Karnataka’s population is increasing every year. Many migrants are settling here, leading to a change in family structures,” he said.
Sometimes, people file false complaints and sometimes they don’t even report these cases, he said.
Minister for Women and Child Welfare Umashree admitted that dowry deaths have not come down in the state and said, “We need more time to control this.”
Amita Prasad, Principal Secretary to the Women and Child Welfare Department, said the department has no role to play in this. “Crime is the Home Department’s matter. If police are not working properly, then that is not our fault. The state has a separate women’s commission, why are they not active against these issues?” she asked.
When contacted, Manjula Manasa, chairperson of the State Women’s Commission, said, “We are going to each district and urging people to lodge complaints against offenders.”